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Findings from previous research have established that various features of music have profound effects on human behavior particularly the mood and endurance in exercise and sports domains. This research aims at determining how music tempo affects human performance in specific tasks.
To examine this concept, the current study, involved 28 participants grouped into two categories, the experimental group with 15 participants and the control group with 13 participants, who were required to complete three mazes before filling out questionnaires. The experimental group listened to fast music while the control group only listened to low tempo music.
The results showed that the control group, on average, completed the mazes at a significantly lesser time than the experimental group. This indicates a correlation between the effects of music upon the subjects’ lives and task performance. These findings have potential implications for labor force in enhancing labor productivity and sports psychology and training. Understanding how the tempo of music affects the speed of performing a task is not only helpful in keeping work schedules but also increasing physical productivity.
The effect of music upon human behavior has aroused much interest in psychology. Most of previous researches centered on aspects of human behavior such as mood, emotional responses, and personal preferences. Edworthy and Warring (2006), established that faster music elicits happier responses and can influence the mood (p. 597).
In contrast, slower music or lyrics produce unhappier emotional responses. Music, therefore, elicits emotional responses, which in turn influence the human perception of speed. These emotional responses perhaps relate to people’s perception of time and speed.
Webster and Weird established that people who listen to faster music, have much happier moods, thought they talked faster and conversation subjects progressed much faster than people who listened to slower music (2005, p. 196 ). Since listening to music alters the mental states that influence human activity, various structural aspects of music can also alter the physical speed.
The effect of music on athlete’s performance offers important insights on the influence of music on speed and endurance. Most athletes listen to music during workouts and prior to competitions as a motivational tool that makes them work harder.
Music tends to distract one’s attention from the present task, which makes the individual less focused on the physical activity (Crust, & Clough, 2006, p. 191). Diverting attention to music leaves no room to focus on tension or pain produced by the exercise. Consequently, the perception about the exertion or complexity of the task is lower.
This increases the people’s endurance as well as efforts in performing tasks. Music, therefore, increases endurance making people to work harder though subconsciously. The high efforts expended, when people are listening to music, speeds up the completion of the specific task. However, much of the previous studies do not show how different music tempos influence speed of a physical or mental activity. This research uses a combination of slow and fast tempo music w to investigate people’s speed when performing specific tasks.
The purpose of this study is to examine how the different music tempos affect the levels of human activity with other factors such as habits held constant. This research will test the following hypotheses: Firstly, music with fast tempo will lead to fast completion of the mazes. From the literature review, fast music elicits happier emotional responses, which improves the speed of task performance. Secondly, the research will test the alternative hypothesis that a faster tempo will make a participant stressed out, perform the task poorly, and as a result, take longer to complete the task.
This study involved 28 male and female college students. The participants were grouped into two categories; experimental and control groups. The grouping was random, that is, there was no specific criterion used to place the participants into either of the group.
The research involved manipulating the tempo of music using a classical piano piece called Chopin’s love with the experimental group listening to high tempo music as they completed three mazes. The control group listened to the piece of music only at the original tempo.
Materials and Measures
This study involved 28 participants divided into two groups. There was a provision of sheets of paper to each of them upon sitting down. The papers contained instructions on how to complete the three mazes. The instructions demanded that the participants had to inform the timekeeper before starting and after completing a maze.
The participants were required to complete three mazes while listening to music of varied tempo. They recorded their respective times of completing each maze. After the exercise, the participants were required to complete a questionnaire to provide information regarding their experience during the exercise.
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Description of Experimental Music: The music selection used involved a classical piano piece known as Chopin’s love as composed by Nakamura Yuriko. The control group listened to the piece of music at the original tempo, BPM of 108.42 according to mix Meister BPM analyzer.
For the experimental group, researcher increased the tempo of the same piece of music to 185 BPM using a Garage Band program. The two groups listened to the piece of music at a constant volume from an apple Mac laptop through large headphones covering their entire ears.
Completing the mazes: Once the seated, the 28 participants had to read a sheet of paper containing instructions about the exercise. The research then grouped them into two categories: the control group (n=13), who only listened to the piece of music at the original tempo and the experimental group (n=15), who listened to the music at a higher tempo at 185 BPM.
The two groups were to put onto the headphones and once the music begins playing, count five seconds aloud. The two groups listened to the music through headphones. Once the music started playing, the participants counted loudly for five seconds before informing the timekeeper to start timing.
After finishing each maze, the participants were required to shout “STOP” and again count five seconds before proceeding to complete the next maze. The procedure required the participants to repeat these instructions until they completed the three mazes. Questionnaire: After completing the mazes, participants were then asked to fill out a
Questionnaire with questions about the role of music in their lives, their experience during the maze completing exercise, their familiarity with the music played and whether they have any hearing impairments. This aimed at determining whether the impact music had on the participant’s lives correlated with the effect the piece of music had on the participant’s speed in completing the maze. The researcher recorded all the respective data.
The analysis of the results focused on the hypothesis that fast tempo music elicits positive emotional responses that would make the participant to complete the maze faster. Table below records the mean of the participant’s maze completion time (in seconds) and the standard deviation (SD) for the two groups (the experimental and control groups);
Mean = Summation of the time taken to fill the mazes/Sample size
Standard deviation=√∑ (each value-mean)2/Sample size
Maze Completion time (seconds)
|Mean (M)||Standard Deviation (SD)|
|Fast Tempo (Experimental group)||52.1703||13.57|
|Low Tempo (Control group)||55.50||18.86|
Table 1: Means for control and Experimental groups
The preliminary results indicated that the questionnaire items had less effect on the speed at which either group completed the maze. The table 1 shows the means and the standard deviations for each treatment.
The results conformed to the hypothesis that high tempo music the participants making them to complete the mazes faster than their counterparts subjected to low tempo music do. On average, the participants in the experimental group completed the mazes 3.34seconds faster compared to the participants in the control group.
Because the participants in the experimental group completed the mazes much faster compared to participants in the control group, the results were consistent with the first hypothesis.
To understand the results of maze completion, the research sought to find out if there is any correlation between the questionnaire items and the speed of completing the mazes.
Overall, no participant reported having any hearing impairment, six participants never listened to music while working, and five rarely listened to music, 12 sometimes, five usually with no participant always listening to music when working. These results indicated that the participant’s previous music life or habit had no significant effects on the participant’s speed of completing the mazes.
The major purpose of this study was to find out whether the music tempo has an effect on the speed of task performance. Previous research had established that music elicits emotional responses. These emotional responses then influence the perception of speed, which makes people to perceive that an action progresses faster when subjected to fast tempo music (Edworthy, & Warring, 2006, p. 604). In addition, previous research has shown that music influences the efforts that people put into a task, particularly sporting activities (Crust, & Clough, 2006, p.194).
Based on this evidence, the present study hypothesized that the high music tempo would make people complete involving tasks such as maze completion much faster than in conditions of low tempo music., the results obtained were consistent with the hypothesis but supported the alternative hypothesis that high music tempo makes people perform involving tasks at a much faster rate.
The experimental group, on average, completed the maze at a faster rate compared to the control group under conditions of low tempo music. From these results, it is justifiable to conclude that fast tempo music stimulates physical and mental activity when performing specific tasks, which increases the speed of performing the task.
This research also aimed at identifying the specific characteristics that predict the extent that the effects of music tempo had on people. However, the items, which included the music life of the participants, hearing impairments and the music genre that participants frequently listened to, did not correlate with the speed of completing the maze.
This indicates the inapplicability of these items in prediction of the speed of completing performing tasks. Although the items tested in the questionnaire had less overall impact on the participant’s speed, the lack of hearing impairment among the subjects suggests clearly that speed correlated with music tempo.
This design of this study aimed to explore the relationship between music tempo and cognitive speed. Usually, when many factors are involved, it is difficult to find results without any external influences. However, this research overcame these obstacles by using a common activity (maze completion) and a piece of music popular among the participants.
The intention of the questionnaires items was for better interpretation of the results obtained from the two groups. The findings of this research that high tempo music has a distractive effect, allow for further investigation into the role music plays in enhancing human performance in competitive situations such as athletics or sports. Further research is essential to find out why and how music tempo influences human performance.
Limitations of the Study
One limitation of this study was that few participants participated in the research, which made it difficult to collect a large amount of data for each treatment. Another limitation of this study was that the participants could not have known the purpose of this study and consequently provided wrongful information when filling out the questionnaires. Future research should explore the effect of both music synchrony and lyrics on the speed of human performance, particularly in physical activities.
Crust, L., & Clough, P. (2006). The influence of rhythm and personality in the endurance Response to motivational asynchronous music. Journal of Sports Sciences, 24, 191-196.
Edworthy, J., & Warring, H. (2006). The effects of music tempo and loudness level on Treadmill exercise. Ergonomics, 49, 597-604.